Regardless of how long his team’s stay in Omaha lasts, when Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell returns from the College World Series, he already has plans to make the most of his team’s remarkable post-season run.
Certainly, recruiting new players to replace his 10 departing seniors will be the first priority. After that, he will focus on expanding a group of boosters that he believes will help frame the future for the program.
“We created a Dugout Club that has more than 300 members so far,” said McDonnell (pictured left with WAVE-TV's Bob Domine). “Our goal is to raise that total to 1,000 members. It was great to get such strong support in our first year, and now I think the club will only get bigger.”
The baseball booster club is not all about money, although members can join by donating annually at three levels - $20, $100 and $500 (corporate).
“Every dollar helps to treat our players in a first-class manner within the NCAA rules,” McDonnell explained. “But our Dugout Club is more than that – it’s all about building a community of baseball fans. Still, I have to say a big thanks to those fans who dug into their pockets and helped get us started.”
The Cardinals’ run through the post-season should provide ample energy to expand McDonnell’s group which has already make quite a difference for the U of L program.
“One thing we’re going to talk about is the supply and demand for NCAA Regional tickets,” said the Cards’ coach. “If it works out, I’d like to see members of the Dugout Club get first dibs on those. We’ll learn a lot from the first year, and I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of input as to what we can do better.”
This year alone, the Club has helped with a variety of initiatives, including funding pre-game meals before each of the school’s 30 home games for the first time ever. Also, adding individual names to three sets of jerseys, purchasing an extra set of cleats for each player and buying plenty of new baseballs was accomplished.
“Our Club helps the program, helps recruiting and helps everything we’re doing,” said McDonnell. “As the group grows, we’ll do better and better things for the players.”
NOTE: When the Cardinals return from Omaha, fans can join the Dugout Club by calling the baseball office (502) 852-5791. Information is also available online at www.uofldugoutclub.com.
QUOTABLES – McDonnell commented on the job pitching coach Roger Williams has done with the Cardinal hurlers.
“Coach Williams has to be the best pitching coach in the country,” said McDonnell. “All of our pitchers have been very consistent all year. They definitely give you a chance to win. It’s hard to lose when you don’t give up but a handful runs over a weekend.”
For example, U of L gave up a total of just five runs in three games with Oklahoma State.
“I think we have the mindset that we’re going to have to score to win, but you never know if your runs will be enough, or if it’s going to take 14. We’re greedy; we want to do it all.”
Cardinal junior pitcher Zack Pitts (Elizabethtown, Ky.), who will start against Rice on Friday, said playing for Dan McDonnell was a new experience.
“It was different, it was definitely a change from what I was used to doing,” he said. “At first, we did this thing called the Omaha Challenge – events like swimming, suicide run, towel hang and other things. Now, all of that seems kind of ironic.”
College World Series Schedule
Game 1 - Rice (51-12) vs. Louisville (46-22), Friday, 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2 - Mississippi State (38-20) vs. North Carolina (53-13), 7 p.m.
Losing teams play Sunday at 2 p.m. Winners play Sunday at 7 p.m.
The U of L Alumni office is promoting the following locations throughout Louisville for Cardinal fans to gather for this weekend’s games:
Game Watch Locations:
- Fourth Street Live! - Fourth and Muhammad Ali Blvd.
- Buffalo Wild Wings - 3584 Springhurst Blvd.
- Buffalo Wild Wings - 6801 Dixie Hwy.
- The Pizza Place - Taylorsville and Richland
- Fox and Hound - 302 Bullitt Lane
- Tailgaters - 2787 S. Floyd Street
- Beef O'Brady's - Central Avenue across from Patterson Stadium
NOTE: Daily columnist Ron Steiner also appears on the Red & Blue Review, a weekly statewide TV sports show (Insight Ch. 2), is published weekly in the Voice-Tribune and is a guest each Friday (5:45 p.m.) on the Cardinal Insider radio program (KRDS, 790AM). He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.